Due to the study of the brain chemistry, we hear more often the term “anhedonia” today. What is it? Psychiatrists define anhedonia as the inability to experience pleasure, to enjoy life. This term appeared in the middle of the twentieth century as one of the major characteristics of schizophrenia.
Different sources describe the major features of anhedonia in a different way. They define it as the inability to experience pleasure and positive emotions, loss of interest in social interaction, lack of pleasant emotions while doing what you like, the “colorless” world of the patient.
It is proved that in the majority of cases anhedonia is associated with subjective memory deterioration in respect of pleasant emotions. A person is engaged in the exciting and memorable events that most people perceive as pleasant ones. While anhedonia makes emotionally significant information less enjoyable or even neutral.
Signs and symptoms of anhedonia
The most different areas of life, which it can interfere with are described here. The symptoms can be divided into two groups – personal and social.
Personal symptoms – the inability to take pleasure in activities or relationships that were previously enjoyable, such as:
- Offishness, discomfort while staying in uncommon places;
- Loss of interest in music, literature, pictures, misunderstanding of art and incapacity to take pleasure in it;
- Dislike of social events – parties, concerts;
- Failure to understand the causes of joy and laughter of others;
- Lack of happiness and enjoyment in life. The person with anhedonia doesn’t have a bad or good day, all the days are similar and;
- They do not understand simple and affordable joy that brightens the life of any human being – have a pet, enjoy nature, eat delicious food, etc.
Social symptoms of anhedonia are associated with difficulties in communication, lack of pleasure in the company of others:
- Incapacity to be with other people. The person with anhedonia can not be for a long period of time around other people, it causes anxiety, restlessness and a desire to go away;
- Telephone calls are a curse for people. It is difficult to maintain long conversations, share their thoughts with others;
- People with anhedonia can not have fun with others, they do not understand the reasons for such behavior, and they are physically unable to feel the joy on their own.
- Loss of interest in sexual interaction.
People with anhedonia are very unhappy and aware of it because they are deprived of everything that brightens our lives and makes it pleasant and interesting.
Anhedonia and depression
It is not surprising that it is one of the major symptoms of depression, and often its cause. It is included into the international classification of diseases as a major symptom of depression. The patients themselves and their relatives say that they have lost interest in activities that once they found enjoyable, become unsociable and detached. In the case of depression in children, it may be a loss of interest in games, sections, clubs, friends that they found interesting.
Anhedonia and schizophrenia
In most sources, it is described as one of the leading symptoms of schizophrenia appearing at its earliest stages. Various authors indicate the frequency of occurrence of anhedonia in schizophrenia patients from 60 to 75%, more than a quarter of patients have a severe form.
In schizophrenia, anhedonia is different from which occurs in depressive disorders. In the case of schizophrenia, the main characteristic is the “emotional flatness”, the inability to experience and express emotions. It is manifested by weakness and lack of facial expressions, gestures, a poor reaction to the interlocutor, unemotional voice.
It often occurs in relatives of patients suffering from schizophrenia, it highlights the genetic nature of the disease.
Anhedonia can be a manifestation of reducing emotional reactions of all modalities – both positive and negative. It indicates the severity of negative symptoms and the extent of social exclusion in schizophrenia. The combination of paranoia and anhedonia with the disappearance of negative emotional reactions and severe symptoms signifies the unfavorable course of schizophrenia.
There are no special anhedonia tests. It is determined through questionnaires. The patient is asked whether he is involved in various kinds of social activity, whether he goes to the cinema, theater, exhibitions, whether he listens to music. Then, doctors find out how often he does it, and if he likes this pastime. Direct questions are possible – whether the patient gets pleasure from hobbies or social activities.
Manifestations of anhedonia may also be a poor social activity – no friends, unwillingness to attend public events.
Like major depression, it is very difficult to treat anhedonia on your own and often it is impossible to do. Since in most cases anhedonia is a symptom of some other disease, and it is necessary to treat the disease itself. Anhedonia will disappear throughout the treatment.
However, there are a number of tips dealing with anhedonia:
- The correct day regime – good night’s sleep, regular meals, and physical exercises;
- The diet should consist of several sources of serotonin – chocolate, fresh fruit;
- Focus on pleasant and positive moments, try to do everything on your own in order to make a moment positive and pleasant;
- Psychotherapeutic correction such as Gestalt therapy, behavioral techniques, psychoanalysis;
- Pharmacological correction – doctors may prescribe antidepressants.
It is very important to prevent the development of anhedonia. To treat it is much more difficult than to prevent it. It is necessary to see the good in everyday moments, to enjoy simple and affordable things, to create such positive and pleasant moments on your own and you should always remember all these good things that made you happy once.
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